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Zero Waste initiative comes close to goal

In a total of seven days, 58 tons of recycled material and 12.5 tons of compost were produced in one place — Ohio Stadium.

The Penn State game marked the seventh and final game in the first football season for the Zero Waste initiative at the ‘Shoe.

Zero waste refers to diverting 90 percent of waste away from landfills. In the ‘Shoe, trash bins were replaced with recycling and compost containers in an attempt to reach the 90 percent mark. The diversion rate in Ohio Stadium this fall varied game by game from 66.7 percent to 82.4 percent.

Although the goal was not met, Corey Hawkey, Ohio State’s program coordinator for energy and sustainability, said he was pleased with this year’s results.

“We’re very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in such a short period of time. It’s been an incredible partnership between all the organizations involved,” Hawkey said.

He said the group effort presented by the Department of Athletics, Office of Sustainability, the President’s Provost Council on Sustainability and external partners were especially helpful with the initiative.

Hawkey said the diversion rate for the entire season was 75.3 percent.

Don Patko, associate athletics director, said that recycling had been in place at the ‘Shoe since 2007, and diverted 50 percent of waste from landfills. Zero Waste was an aggressive project, but it was important for the stadium to set an example in sustainability efforts, Patko said.

“It was a lot easier, what we did from 2007 to 2010,” Patko said. “The first thing people see and think of when they come to the university is the Ohio Stadium … what would be better than to be the forefront leader in stadiums of this size?”

Hawkey said that changes were made during the season to improve the usage including evaluating the production of waste after each home game.

“We’ve been taking a look at what we’ve been doing, and looking at our material stream and we say, ‘OK, what’s left over, why is it left over, how did it reach that point and what can we do about it?'” Hawkey said.

Hawkey said the initiative received a $50,000 grant from the President’s Provost Council on Sustainability. This money goes toward covering the cost of new signs to inform fans about the project, new waste infrastructure for the suites and Huntington Club area and workers to stand by each recycling and compost container to help fans know where to put their waste. He said that covered about half the cost of the program.

Sodexo, the main food vendor for OSU athletics, contributed to the initiative by changing its packaging to help streamline the collection process.

Danny Phillips, Sodexo’s general manager at OSU, said that changes included anything from cups to nacho trays.

“The disposable paper Coke cups have a petroleum lining, which can’t be composted, so we ended up replacing all of those and going with a plastic souvenir cup,” Phillips said. “[The nacho tray] was made of a plastic that they could recycle, but as soon as it was contaminated with the goopy, orange nacho cheese, they couldn’t do it any longer, so we found a Chinet type pressed paperboard material nacho tray.”

Hawkey said another adjustment to increase the diversion rate next year will be to educate people in the suites and press box about how to dispose of different products and the effects of proper disposal. Next year more signage will be used to make people aware of the program, Hawkey said.

Hannah Torgerson, a third-year in nursing, said the initiative would be effective if it was understood by everyone.

Torgerson said fans and visitors need to be better informed of how to dispose of waste to help the initiative make more of an impact.

“I think it’s a good idea if people would know how to use the tool to benefit the planet, but most people just throw everything in one bin,” Torgerson said. “I feel like it could be a success, but people just need to be educated on how to use it.”

Cambell Parrish, a third-year in agriculture and extension education, said people did a better job of disposing waste toward the end of the season.

Parrish said the initiative can help OSU encourage other universities to adopt the same program.

“From the first game in comparison to the last game the fans and everyone in attendance seemed to be more cognizant of it and seemed to be seeking out which trash barrel they need to put it into,” Parrish said. “It’s a simple step that we can make to help improve the environment.”

Despite not making the goal of a 90 percent diversion this year, Hawkey said he has faith in Buckeye nation and high hopes for next fall.

“I’m proud of the best fans in the land,” Hawkey said. “I look forward to reaching our goal next season.”

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